Heaven or Earth?
There is a song entitled, “I’ll live in Glory” that is sung at many congregations. Its first line reads “I’d like to stay here longer than man’s allotted days”. The reference is to staying upon the earth. Many people, including myself, have said, “What!?!” The reason for this response is that we want to go home to God. We are tired of living in a world of sin, jealousies, violence, hatred, and evil. Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with this response. It reminds me of the words of Peter regarding Lot and his deliverance from Sodom and Gomorrah:
• 2 Peter 2:7-8 – …Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds):
Lot wanted to be free from the sinful atmosphere which surrounded him. But he is not the only man in the Bible who felt like this, Habakkuk a prophet of old had a similar response:
• Habakkuk 1:2-4 – O Jehovah, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save. Why dost thou show me iniquity, and look upon perverseness? for destruction and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention riseth up. Therefore the law is slacked, and justice doth never go forth; for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore justice goeth forth perverted.
These men old longed for the purity and holiness of God. Indeed, our senses should be appalled at the wickedness which surrounds us day after day. Romans 6:23 tells us: “All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God…” Yet, Christians have left this lifestyle in seeking something better.
• Colossians 3:5-14 – Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things’ sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience: wherein ye also once walked, when ye lived in these things; but now do ye also put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth: lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye: and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.
All of this being acknowledged, there came a time in my life that I realized, that I agreed with the phrase: “I’d like to stay here longer than man’s allotted days”. In a moment, I will tell you why. However, think for a moment about a man who desired to stay longer up on the earth than God had allotted for him. His name was Hezekiah. He was King over Judah. 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chronicles 32 records how he became ill to the point of death. He was told by God he would die. However, he prayed to God and God gave him 15 years more of life. In 2 Chronicles 32:25, we read: “But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.” Fortunately, Hezekiah humbled himself again, but we must be aware that if we have more time, we are also subject to further temptation.
Now, why did I come to agree with the phrase, “I’d like to stay here longer than man’s allotted days”, although I do not want to be surrounded by the sin of the world longer than I have to endure it and I realize with each passing moment “sin is crouching at the door” (Genesis 4:7). The truth is I began to fear for my children. My job is to mentor and develop them to be strong in Christ.
• Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
It is my job to make certain that they learn what they are to do in Christ. It is my job to let them know He loves them and died for them. This is something that will be with them forever, it will not depart. It doesn’t matter what manner of trouble they get into, God’s truths will be with them to guide them out of it, when they cling to Him. I want them to have the best opportunity for everything to turn out right during and at the end of their lives.
• Ephesians 6:1-3 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
With a promise like this from God, how can I not want to extend my days to be here for my children? Of course, as my children have grown, other realizations have become apparent. Someday, they will likely get married. I pray for their future spouses. I pray for their godliness. And yes, I pray for my grandchildren. I want to see my grandchildren.
• Proverbs 17:6 – Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.
Indeed, as with my children, I want to raise righteous grandchildren. I want to establish generations of family committed to serving God. “I’d like to stay here longer than man’s allotted days”.
Certainly there is conflict present in wanting to be with God and wanting to be here for family. However, the Bible puts this conflict into an even clearer picture. Consider the words of the apostle Paul:
• Philippians 1:21-26 – For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Paul too wanted to be with Christ. To die would be gain for him. He would receive the reward of eternal life with the Father. Yet, he understood, there was work to be done. It is not just work for your children and your grandchildren. We have the blessing of sharing the gospel to all those who would receive it if we live. We will be able to provide an example and encouragement. The promise of eternal life does not go away, because we are here continuing to “fear God and do His commandments” as He desires us to do.
• John 4:35-36 – …Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes , and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”
These things being said, only God knows what day is our last. Whether we are here on earth a great number of days or a short span according to man, let us not forget our purpose to follow and glorify Him. Let us love our God, our family, our neighbors, and appreciate and understand the brevity of our days.
• James 4:13-15 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”